North Carolina Architects and Builders - A Biographical Dictionary

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Brewer, W. L. (1862-1956)

Variant Name(s):
  • Wells Lowry Brewer
Birthplace: Geneseo, New York, USA
Trades:
  • Architect
NC Work Locations:
  • Greensboro, Guilford County
  • Guilford
  • Liberty, Randolph County
  • Randolph
Building Types:
  • Educational;
  • Residential
Styles & Forms:
  • Colonial Revival;
  • Prairie Style

Biography

W. L. Brewer (September 9, 1862-September 5, 1956), a Greensboro architect, numbered among the original chapter members of the new North Carolina chapter of the American Institute in 1913 (see Glenn Brown). He was also #5 among the group of men licensed to practice architecture in North Carolina in 1915, based on their previous professional work. Brewer is primarily known for planning schools and residences, most notably the James E. Latham House in Greensboro.

Born in Geneseo, New York, he was the son of George and Margaret Brewer. Exactly when or why he moved to Greensboro is not known. During the first decade of the 20th century, Brewer was one of several men regularly listed under the business heading of "Architects and Builders" in North Carolina published in the Greensboro Daily News. In 1906, that newspaper of July 15 referred to him as "the well-known architect." He had designed a "colonial" house for one E. J. Justice in the Pomona area.

Like many of his contemporaries, Brewer planned a number of school buildings. In 1907, the Manufacturers' Record of May 2 noted that Brewer was associated with architect S. W. Foulk; plans for a proposed high school could be seen at their office in Greensboro. In that same year, the Greensboro Daily News noted that he had designed a graded school to be built on South Spring Street, but apparently the city was unable to raise the bonds to build it. The next year the Liberty Graded School was built from a design by Brewer, which included a second-floor auditorium; it burned in 1925.

In 1908, the Greensboro Daily News ran a long story about Brewer and his work. It reported that he was educated at the Geneseo State Normal School, where his training including drawing. Because his father was "in the building business" he gained knowledge of the "practical side of building construction," and he strove to gain expertise through working for "the best masters in the state" in architecture and furniture making as well as studying the masterpieces of the classical and colonial past. The newspaper listed several works by Brewer. These included residences for J. P. Turner, James Forbis, E. J. Justice, C. C. Taylor, O. C. Wysong, and Thomas Crabtree. Also mentioned were the Telfair Sanitarium, the Liberty Graded School in Liberty, N. C., and the "Receiving Home for the North Carolina Children's Home Society," a grand structure in "pure Corinthian" style and fireproof construction. Further research may identify these more fully. In 1911 Brewer's plans for a 3-story hotel in Fayetteville were accepted; it has not been identified (Greensboro Daily News, Feb. 1, 1911).

The James Latham House (1913), designed by Brewer for businessman James Edwin Latham in the prestigious Fisher Park suburb, is considered one of the finest early 20th century residences standing in Greensboro, a horizontally composed Prairie style house with rock-faced granite walls by local stonemason Andrew Leopold Schlosser. It is one of the few large Prairie style houses in the state.

Brewer continued to advertise as an architect and designer in the Greensboro Daily News during the late 1910s and into the 1920s. The 1930 and 1940 censuses show him and his wife Lillie living in Greensboro. Lillie died in 1941 and W. L. died at age 93 in Greensboro. At that time he was residing at 224 S. Mendenhall St. He was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Author: Catherine W. Bishir.

Published 2018

Building List

James E. Latham House (Greensboro, Guilford County)

Guilford Greensboro

1913

Contributors:
Dates: 1913
Location: Greensboro, Guilford County
Street Address: 412 Fisher Park Cir., Greensboro, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Residential
Images Published In:
  • Marvin A. Brown, Greensboro: An Architectural Record (1995).
Note:

The large residence in the prestigious suburb is a grand version of the Prairie Style, built for a developer of the neighborhood. Whether Brewer designed other houses in the suburb is not established. If this residence is indicative of the quality of his designs, his other, unidentified houses must have been impressive.

Liberty Graded School (Liberty, Randolph County)

Randolph Liberty

1908

Contributors:
Dates: 1908
Location: Liberty, Randolph County
Street Address: Liberty, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Educational

W. L. Brewer's Work Locations

Bibliography

  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).
  • Marvin A. Brown, Greensboro: An Architectural Record (1995).

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